Unspoken prejudice: Racial politics, gendered norms, and the transformation of Puerto Rican identity in the twentieth century

Cristobal A Borges, University of Texas at El Paso


The dissertation uses border theory to craft a comparative study that explores the promotion of the white jíbaro in Puerto Rico throughout the twentieth century and the challenges to that racialized identity that emerged simultaneously. Through a biographical approach that examines the lives of José Julio Henna (1848–1924), Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (1874–1938), Muna Lee (1895–1965), Juano Hernández (1896–1970), Ruby Black (1896–1957), Luis Muñoz Marín (1898–1980), Pura Belpré (1899–1982), Inés Mendoza (1908–1990), and Roberto Clemente (1934–1972) as symbols of Puerto Ricanness and contributors to its definition, the dissertation analyzes the racial and gendered inequalities that persisted during twentieth century Puerto Rico. Those prejudices can still be encountered on the island, as well as throughout the contours of numerous Latin American regions. The project seeks to bring forth constructive comprehensions about the creation of identities with inherent prejudices and a method for uncovering how they have been challenged. It also decenters the jíbaro from Puerto Ricanness and challenges nationalist identities. The dissertation before you is an unwrapping of how the pueblo of Puerto Rico refashioned its communal identity. The goal is to expose racist injections and patriarchal constructs into it. The argument is presented in two parallel parts. First, I look at how Puerto Rican identity has been infused throughout the twentieth century with a continual promotion of whiteness and male superiority in an attempt to construct a unified cultural nationalism that could wrestle some control away from United States colonial power structures while replicating them. Second, I examined how throughout the century puertorriqueños challenged that identity and developed new understandings of puertorriqueñidad that began a process of creolization for their identity that is still unveiling itself.

Subject Area

Latin American history|American history|Caribbean Studies|Political science|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Borges, Cristobal A, "Unspoken prejudice: Racial politics, gendered norms, and the transformation of Puerto Rican identity in the twentieth century" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3623381.